In Their Sandals and R & S English… a winning combination!

From Our House to Yours

In Their Sandals and Rod & Staff English… a winning combination in USI!

In Heart of Dakota’s U.S. History I (USI), the English III credit includes a combination of literature, grammar, composition, and vocabulary. Today, I want to take a closer look at the composition and grammar parts of the credit. In USI, the creative writing course In Their Sandals is alternated with the first half of the grammar course Rod and Staff English 8. So, students use each of these resources two times each week. Two of our sons have used these resources now, and I am happy to say we have found them to be a winning combination!

What makes these two resources such a winning combination?

Now, you must be wondering what makes these two resources such a winning combination! Well, this combination works well because the first half of R & S English 8 covers expository, persuasive, narrative, and descriptive paragraphs; outlining; writing compositions; proofreading; researching; note-taking; and developing oral and written reports. When it comes to clear-cut, systematic writing that can be applied to oral/written assignments for virtually any school subject, R & S English cannot be beat!

However, In Their Sandals fills another need by beautifully by taking students step-by-step through the writing process and teaching elements of literature and composition along the way. Students are expertly guided to write in various styles and in different points of view. They learn how to take notes and to write from those notes. Likewise, they learn to summarize narrative stories from varying viewpoints, as well as summarize using multiple references. They conduct research for reports, epistolary writing, and creative writing, as well work through the writing process of researching, prewriting, outlining a lot, developing descriptions, and writing, applying, and revising.  Not only does In Their Sandals address often neglected areas of writing, it also pairs beautifully with Starr Meade’s New Testament Survey, which is used for the Bible credit in USI.

My Son’s Latest In Their Sandals Writing Piece

My son, Riley, handed in his latest In Their Sandals writing piece to me recently. I confess, I did very little to help with this. In fact, he was pretty much solo on this, other than me spot checking his work along the way. Well, all I can say is I was in tears by the time I was done reading! Happy tears! In this writing piece, Riley became Joseph and wrote journal entries on his brothers’ betraying him by selling him to the Egyptians as a slave. He really put his heart into this, and I truly felt like I was reading Joseph’s journal! As I finished, I thought how glad I am Riley is having a Christian education – the kind where God is welcome and present in a very real way every day!

In Closing

So, this is why these two resources are such a winning combination! Both are Christian. But, one tugs at your heart, and the other makes sharing what’s on your heart transfer well to paper. Though there are some errors, and I gave some leeway due to this being a journal, I thought he did a great job overall! I still gave him an “A+” – I am the teacher, right?!? Thanks Heart of Dakota for keeping Christ front and center! Thanks also for building strong writers! May our children take what they’ve learned and go out and change the world – for His glory!

In Christ,



Should ‘In Their Sandals’ writing pieces be a certain length?

Dear Carrie

Should I push for my son’s ‘In Their Sandals’ writing pieces to be a certain length?
My son is using In Their Sandals with the U.S. History I guide. He is finishing up his first story. The directions say that there isn’t a set amount of words, number of paragraphs or length required. My son is one who isn’t going to write something lengthy unless directions specifically say to do that. His first story has good sentence structure and vocabulary. It tells the story, but there isn’t a lot of extras. It is fairly short. So, my question is, what if children don’t write very long stories?  And if so, would you say that was okay? Or, should I push for him to make his stories a certain length or number of words? My son and I are both used to EIW where you knew exactly what was expected in the previous Heart of Dakota guides. So, this one is just a little tougher for me to grade and figure out expectations.
“Ms. Please Help Me with Length Expectations of In Their Sandals Writing Assignments”
Dear “Ms. Please Help Me with Length Expectations of ‘In Their Sandals’ Writing Assignments,”

As we did In Their Sandals, I found that the length of my son’s writings varied quite a bit throughout the year. Since this writing program has more of a creative writing bent, I think that it’s fine to have pretty big variations in length. Grading-wise, as long as my son did a good job completing the planning sheets, made sure to include what was asked of him in the writing, tried to apply the grammar/writing tools mentioned, and did his best proofing and editing, I allowed quite a bit of leeway in the length. This is because for this program it is meant to be freeing for the students not to have a set length to attain. Rather, students can write in a way that suits their intended purpose.

One goal for ‘In Their Sandals’ is to encourage development of a student’s voice, so there are purposefully fewer constraints and greater leeway in length requirements.

For In Their Sandals, if we place a certain length requirement on the student, he/she will begin writing to attain the length rather than allowing the writing be whatever length it needs to be in order fulfill the idea in his/her head. Freedom in writing – figuring out how to take an idea from its inception to finish – with fewer constraints is actually a skill to be developed for this year of writing. It can be tough to write outside of a formula, yet that is where a student’s voice develops and appears. From what you’ve shared, it sounds like your son did very well with this first assignment. I would be pleased with his work.


P.S. Check out our Top Ten Christian Homeschool Questions!